When you own a catering business, your success is heavily reliant on the quality of ingredients that you can source each week. At the same time, you must also balance the cost of those ingredients to ensure that your company will secure a profit at the end of the day.
As you know, the food buying process is far more intimate than going to a grocery store and stocking up on ingredients. Caterers work with food providers on a daily basis and it’s in our interest to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with our suppliers.
The Relationship Factor
Building relationships with your food provider is just as essential as growing those with venues, planners, photographers, and other vendors in your industry. When you work with someone on a regular basis, stronger relationships provide added benefits for both parties that can equate to greater business success for all.
Adam Gooch of Common Plea Catering explains: “As caterers, we always get last-minute requests, orders, and changes which make the jobs of our team very hard. Having great relationships with your suppliers are key to having success. Building these great relationships is what gives you an advantage in your business, knowing that they are working for you and just not delivering to you — big difference!”
“People like doing business with people they can trust and call a friend,” adds Lon Lane of Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions. “Relationships make this business work and, with great relationships, you will get the best pricing, attention to your needs, and have someone on your vendor list that cares about the success of your business.”
At the end of the day, nurturing any relationship is about creating a space for personal connection. Make yourself available, be helpful, and communicate frequently.
“Sit down and have interpersonal contact with the people you’ll be working with and make them part of your success,” encourages Alan Berg CSP of Wedding Business Solutions LLC. “The better you do, the more you’ll buy from them, so ask them for the biggest mistakes they’ve seen other start-ups make and how you can avoid them.”
When you can connect on a personal level, it becomes two human beings working together — which is where a relationship can truly thrive. Respect and honesty are key in taking a professional relationship to the next level. Don’t take your suppliers for granted and look for ways to meet them halfway.
“Be honest and transparent about what you want to accomplish, but also realize that it is a partnership,” urges Anthony Lambatos of Footers Catering. “If you want certain things, like five deliveries a week, be willing to accept a minimum dollar amount per order. When you are willing to give and take, everyone wins. If you are just trying to extract as much as possible from your vendor, you will have a hard time creating a long term partnership.”
Having one reliable food provider is far more effective and productive than trying to scour through prices each week. Find a supplier that has values that align with yours and appreciate the value they provide on a regular basis; the more respect you send their way, the better response you’ll get in return. After all, strong caterer-supplier relationship opens up the opportunity for both companies to succeed beyond expectations.